The race was shortened from 10 furlongs to nine in order to avoid a potential hazard on the dirt portion of the track following a couple of days of inclement weather. Even so, the track was rated "good" as Naughty Rafaela, who twice won group I races in Brazil on heavy or soft going, rallied to make a winner once again of jockey David Flores and trainer Bobby Frankel.
The winning time was 1:48.
"It worked out great because I was able to lay close enough that I was able to put pressure on them at the right time," said Flores, who notched his 12th stakes win of the stand. "She has a good kick and she’s really game. I’ve been working very hard at this meet and Bobby’s been putting me on a lot of good horses. I hope we can just keep kicking butt.”
Frankel won three consecutive Santa Barbara Handicaps with Megahertz from 2003-05 and has won the race six times.
Naughty Rafaela, a 5-year-old Royal Academy mare, stalked the leaders in fourth as Sweet Belle set a conservative pace of :24, :47 3/5 and 1:11 2/5 for jockey Michael Baze while pressed on her outside by Quick as Ray and the favorite, Live Life, who was pulling hard early. As the field rounded the final turn, Live Life began to back out under Victor Espinoza and Quick as Ray was under a ride from Joe Talamo trying to keep up with Sweet Belle, who kicked away in upper stretch. After moving up on the inside around the final turn, Naughty Rafaela launched her bid when asked by Flores and they edged by Sweet Belle on the outside under strong urging leaving the furlong marker. She finished under firm handling as Mabadi, ridden by Aaron Gryder, closed with interest to edge Sweet Belle for second by a half-length.
"There were three fillies going for the lead, and it might have looked like she had a tough time getting to the front, but she’s a one-paced mare," said Humberto Ascanio, Frankel's assistant.
Naughty Rafaela had lost four consecutive races after transferring to the U.S. with Frankel before she won a 1 1/4-mile allowance heat over the Santa Anita lawn in her last start Feb. 28. The Santa Barbara was her U.S. graded stakes debut. Naughty Rafaela has not been out of the money in five starts at the Santa Anita turf, boasting two wins, a second and two thirds. The winning purse, $120,000, increased her lifetime earnings to $206,224 with a record of 4-2-2 in 11 starts.
Sent off as the second choice, she paid $7.20, $4 and $2.60. Mabadi, a British import making her U.S. stakes debut for trainer Sandy Shulman, returned $11.40 and $6.20, completing a $36.70 exacta. Sweet Belle was $5.20 to show.
Quick as Ray finished fourth, followed by Solva, Grat and Live Life.
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